founder stories

Do you have the personality to be a good founder?

It takes a certain type of personality to start a billion-dollar company. And to be honest, I wasn’t born with the genetic makeup to achieve unicorn success.

There are plenty of personality assessments online to figure this out – Myers Briggs, Enneagram, KOLBE, StrengthFinders–but I recently learned about the Entrepreneur DNA Assessment by Founder Institute.

For the last 15 years, Founder Institute has tested and observed over 175K startup founders to identify their ultimate entrepreneurial traits. They’ve helped innovators at big corporations, universities, governments, startup accelerators, and even VC funds understand and maximize their unique strengths.

The team at FI wanted to know: what personality traits should you have if you’re a founder trying to fundraise money? And is it possible to “turn on” those traits when meeting with VCs?

I interviewed one of their team members, Emiliya Strahilova, to dig into their massive database. My goal? to uncover the strengths and weaknesses they’ve seen from fundraising founders. Here’s what they found.

Important note: We were not paid to write this! Our team simply loves data (mostly me) and we were genuinely curious to learn more about their findings to see if it could help you, our readers.  

Strength #1: Management

Fundraising founders can lead a team, push others to do their best work, and provide great support to teammates.

  • They enjoy managing others
  • They can communicate effectively
  • They like taking on leadership roles
  • They are great at understanding what motivates people
  • They can accurately assess the strengths and weaknesses of their team

Strength #2: Social skills

Fundraising founders know how to connect and communicate with many different types of people – customers, employees, co-founders, investors, and partnerships.

  • They find energy in meeting new people
  • They know how to manage a big network  
  • They perform well in highly social environments
  • They are good listeners and great communicators
  • They know how to navigate uncomfortable conversations

Strength #3: Achievement

Fundraising founders set highly ambitious goals, and are willing to go beyond expectations to achieve them.

  • They will put in more effort to get something done
  • They are not afraid of setting big and ambitious goals
  • They are willing to make sacrifices in the name of achieving their goals

OK, what about their weaknesses? Here’s what the Founder Institute discovered.

Weakness #1: Collaboration

Fundraising founders may struggle to interact within the context of a team.

  • They may prioritize their own work and career goals over those of the team
  • They make decisions before achieving consensus with others
  • They may listen to others only with the intent to argue (rather than truly understand)
  • Their presence could create an environment where people are not comfortable sharing their ideas

One of my favorite quotes is “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

You may have a few quick wins doing things by yourself. But building and collaborating well with a team will get you much further in business (and life).

We recommend investing time to nurture your co-founder relationships, make friends (not contacts), and consider going on a team offsite to strengthen your bonds. It’ll be worth it.

Weakness #2: Agreeableness

Fundraising founders with low Agreeableness may be seen as intimidating, abrasive, or inflexible by others.

  • Their communication style may be seen as intimidating or abrasive
  • They value extremely candid feedback and will typically provide others with the same
  • Casual social interactions might not come naturally to them
  • Others may view them as overly argumentative, narrow-minded, and inflexible to the needs or opinions of others

No one likes working for (or investing in) a founder who’s a jerk. Be open to hearing people’s perspectives. Yes, it’s possible to give difficult feedback without being arrogant.

If you struggle with collaboration or being agreeable, now is the time to level-up your skills.

To sum up the data

Fundraising founders scored

  1. High on Management
  2. High on Social skills
  3. High on Achievement
  4. Low on Collaboration
  5. Low on Agreeableness

These are themes from the massive database that Founder Institute has gathered over the last 14 years.

At Hustle Fund, we’ve funded entrepreneurs with a wide variety of personalities. Of course, we haven't interviewed as many people as FI, but we do have a portfolio of over 500 startups. Here are some things we've seen make a great founder:

  1. Willingness to learn from others — It’s a big red flag when we meet with founders who get defensive. This is because a defensive founder indicates that s/he may not be a coachable founder. We look for founders who are open to hearing new perspectives and consider changing their worldview based on that new information.

  2. Speed — It’s a special thing to witness a founder ship quickly, even when their product isn’t perfect. The goal is to learn and iterate fast, which is one of the reasons why we invested in Daily Blends. Their smart fridges (think vending machines) were very hard to set up initially. But once Elizabeth saw how the founders quickly launched two products in a university and hospital, she had faith that they could roll out hundreds and thousands of smart fridges worldwide.

  3. Obsession with their customers — Founders who talk to their customers every day is a big green flag for us. They’re obsessed with learning everything they can about their users’ hopes, fears, and desires. When a company is obsessed with its customers, good things happen.  

  4. Ability to prioritize — There are so many opportunities to consider, decisions to make, and things to do when you’re an entrepreneur. Great founders have a unique ability to be decisive about what to prioritize, especially when they’re trying to fundraise and grow their company at the same time.